Matthew James Canavan is an Australian politician and member of the Liberal National Party who has served in the Australian Senate representing the state of Queensland since 2013. He won re-election in 2016 and again in 2022. Canavan also served as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia from February 2016 to February 2020.
In July 2017, during the 2017–18 Australian parliamentary eligibility crisis, Canavan resigned from Cabinet over doubts about his eligibility to be a member of parliament after discovering that he might be an Italian citizen. Section 44(i) of the Australian Constitution prohibits the election of dual citizens to the Parliament of Australia. Italian constitutional experts were unable to advise with certainty whether he had inherited Italian citizenship, but the High Court ultimately found on 27 October 2017 that Canavan was not an Italian citizen and was therefore not ineligible under s 44(i). He was reappointed to the Cabinet on the same day.
In February 2020, Canavan resigned again from Cabinet to support Barnaby Joyce in his unsuccessful bid for National Party leadership. Canavan’s resignation also followed his failure to declare his membership of the North Queensland Cowboys, as the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility within his Northern Australia portfolio approved a $20 million loan for the Cowboys to build a training center next to the North Queensland Stadium in Townsville. Canavan denied any breach of ministerial standards, citing that under the North Australia Infrastructure Facility Act, he had no power to approve loans but could only reject them.
Canavan was born in Southport on the Gold Coast, Queensland in 1980. He grew up in Slacks Creek in the City of Logan, where he attended Chisholm Catholic College. While at the University of Queensland, he identified as a communist until a political disagreement with volunteers for the International Socialist Organisation. He holds degrees in Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Economics (Hons.) from the University of Queensland.
After graduating, Canavan moved to Canberra to work at the Productivity Commission as a senior research economist from 2003 to 2008, and later as a director from 2009 to 2010. He then worked briefly in Brisbane as a senior executive at KPMG from 2008 to 2009. From 2010 to 2013, he served as chief of staff to Senator Barnaby Joyce, at the time serving as shadow minister for finance. Canavan later turned down an offer to move to Andrew Robb’s office, despite Joyce’s demotion to a less senior portfolio.
Canavan was elected to the Australian Senate as a member of the Liberal National Party of Queensland in 2013, representing Queensland. He sits with the National Party in the Senate, although he had been a member of the Liberal club during his latter days at UQ. In the First Turnbull Ministry, Canavan served as the Minister for Northern Australia between 18 February and 19 July 2016, becoming the first member of cabinet born in the 1980s. With the reelection of the Turnbull Government in 2016, Canavan was elevated to Cabinet becoming the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia in the Second Turnbull Ministry. He briefly resigned from Cabinet between July and October 2016 amid his High Court citizenship challenge.
Canavan has also served on the “Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia,” which delivered its interim report in December 2020.
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